California Wildfires Could Potentially Affect Wine Production in the Region, Experts Say

Smoke from the California wildfires can potentially pollute the flavor of wine grapes and affect the production of wine, according to experts at the Wine Institute.

Though they note that the majority of the state’s wineries and vineyards remain untouched by the wildfires, the institute acknowledges that it is "too early to tell the extent to which smoke exposure may be an issue for the vintage."

“The majority of California's wine grape crop has not been impacted by smoke exposure from the wildfires,” Gladys Horiuchi, a Wine Institute spokesperson, told Fox News.

But Horiuchi notes that some winemakers could potentially face challenges if wildfire smoke is "fresh, dense and in close proximity" to the area where the grapes are harvested from, according to the outlet.

"Certainly, there has been some individual losses at vineyards and wineries, but really this is not a consumer problem," Horiuchi said. "Consumers don't need to worry about the wines having any kind of smoky taste because the wineries will not release wines that are not of the same consistent quality that they've had with other previous vintages. They just won't risk their reputations."

According to Horiuchi, vineyards in the northern counties of California Wine Country are the likeliest to be affected by wildfires.

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Per KTLA5, some wineries are not accepting grapes they agreed to purchase unless they have been tested for smoke taint, John Aguirre, president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers, said. But laboratories are too backed up to analyze new orders in time, according to the outlet.

Aguirre adds that the state's wildfires are likely to be "without question the single worst disaster the wine-grape growing community has ever faced."

Alongside the threat of the wildfires, wineries are also dealing with a variety of other complications stemming from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"This year the biggest issue between the heatwave and the fires, and then you throw in the COVID issue, there’s a lot of wine grapes hanging out there right now that just aren’t going to make quality wine," Tod Hickman of Hickman Winery told CGTN. "This is going to be one of the lowest production years in history, I believe."

To help communities facing destructive wildfires in the Western U.S., consider donating to the following organizations:

• The American Red Cross allows donors to direct funds to support people impacted by the fires.

• GlobalGiving’s Wildfire Relief offers emergency funding to local efforts providing essentials to wildfire victims in need.

• GoFundMe’s California Wildfire Relief Fund aims to “support a range of needs” by issuing “grants to individuals, organizations and communities that have either been impacted themselves or are dedicated to helping.“

• The California Fire Foundation “provides emotional and financial assistance to families of fallen firefighters, firefighters and the communities they protect."

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